Right to drink

Last night, as I was heading home after feeding homeless dogs, a man in a suit minus a tie, stumbled on a pothole by a swanky widened dark road. He struggled to get up on his feet a couple of times. A young man helped him find his stable ground. As the corona fear rends our life, I asked him out of concern, “Are you sick?” He mumbled: “Party”, and staggered away. He must have downed a few quick drinks that still had not worked on his system. One could notice that he was trying to keep his composure despite his body beginning to give it away.

While drink-driving seems to be more or less under control, walking drunk is not. I see labourers, mostly Indians, returning from their work, sipping beer from the bottles on the dark streets. Some would hold beer bottles aloft in both their hands as Messi and Ronaldo show off their silverware. They don’t bother anyone, but they could still frighten others, especially women.

Kathmandu has always been a drinkers’ paradise. The entire country is like one big watering hole. Tourists are amazed by the freedom we practise on drinks, available over the counter even in roadside tea stalls. There is no age restriction or sex discrimination while buying drinks and cigarettes.

I tried to dissuade my friendly neighbourhood grocery store from selling bottles and sticks of cigarettes to young underage children. His response stumped me. He quipped, whenever he tried to tell the same to the parents of the children, they told him to mind his business. We must be the number one democratic country when it comes to liquor. Drinking on the roads, no problem; drinking on the highways, no problem; drinking at the airport, no problem. In many international airports, we feel intimidated by notices on drinks and dress etiquettes. They read something to this effect: “Inappropriately dressed and drunk passengers will not be allowed to board flights.”

Till date, I have not seen such notice at our boutique airport. Once at Patna airport, an elderly gentleman with wife and children in tow drank water from a whiskey bottle. A cop came running and smacked the bottle with his cane.

The man stammered with panic,” Sir, I am drinking water.” The cop’s answer had him sweating: “You drink liquor openly in this great nation of Mahatma Gandhi, and you dare tell a lie?” I could not help thinking then that Nepal is a paradise when it comes to drinking.